Republicans say they are "flabbergasted" by the Obama administration's latest proposal for averting a fiscal meltdown -- a plan that they call a "joke" and which has only further divided the two sides with the clock ticking.
Rather than offering a round of spending cuts to soothe Republican concerns about the debt, the Obama plan calls for a new wave of stimulus spending on top of $1.6 trillion in tax hikes over the next decade.
House Speaker John Boehner told "Fox News Sunday" he was "flabbergasted" when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner presented the plan in a closed-door meeting last week. The administration doubled down even though Republicans broke with their long-standing no-tax vow and indicated a willingness to close deductions for top earners.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," called the plan a "joke" and predicted it would bode poorly for the future of talks.
"I think we're going over the cliff," Graham said. "It's pretty clear to me they've made a political calculation. This offer doesn't remotely deal with entitlement reform in a way to save Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security from imminent bankruptcy."
The unproductive closed-door talks come as both sides now seek support from outside Washington for their positions. Fox News confirms that House Republicans plan to meet with small business owners and governors this coming week. Obama returned to the stump last week to make his case for tax hikes on top earners, and has also turned to his campaign operation to rally the base.
He also plans to field questions on Twitter at 2 p.m. ET on Monday about his plan.
Republicans are fuming over the president's call for $1.6 trillion in tax hikes -- four times the value of his proposed spending cuts.
The administration's latest proposal includes roughly $600 billion in spending cuts. Those cuts, however, would be offset by $200 billion in proposed stimulus and other spending programs. The multi-year stimulus program would include at least $50 billion in fiscal 2013 alone; the administration also wants an extension of unemployment aid. And, in what one House Republican source called a "pipe dream," the administration called for effectively implementing a permanent increase in the debt limit.
The plan underscored how the post-election period has only pushed Republicans and Democrats further apart.
The Obama administration's latest proposal was ridiculed by Republicans who claimed it was unbalanced, locking in tax hikes in the near-term in exchange for fuzzy spending cuts in the long term. And while some Republicans had opened the door to raising revenue by limiting deductions for high-income earners, the president has insisted instead on raising rates for households making more than $250,000.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Geithner said the White House plan has "balance" and "detail," but he's willing to hear suggested improvements.
"But what we cannot do is figure out what works for them," said Geithner, who appeared on all five major TV talk shows. "The ball really is with them now."
Boehner, appearing later on "Fox News Sunday," called the offer "non-serious."
The Ohio congressman also said he was "just flabbergasted" when Geithner presented the plan last week.
"I looked at him and I said, `You can't be serious,'" Boehner said.
Boehner said of the status of talks: "Well, right now, I would say we're nowhere."
Should the White House and Congress fail to reach a deal, a $500 billion mix of tax hikes and austere cutbacks on federal spending will kick in Jan. 1.
Obama's campaign operation piped up late Sunday, when his deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter sent out an email urging supporters to share stories about "what $2,000 a year means to you." That's the amount middle-class taxes are estimated to go up if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal by the end of the year to avert the devastating combo of spending cuts and tax increases.
"Your story matters and Congress needs to hear it," Cutter wrote to supporters.